Ford thought he’d collapse in the middle of a San Diego sidewalk, as chills ran through his body and a jolt of nausea almost tipped his world. Placing a hand to his mouth before closing his eyes, he prayed for his body to calm down. He had left the recruitment office feeling numb and heartbroken, incredulous of what had happened. It had taken less than thirty minutes for his life to take a turn for the worst. Ford knew he was selfish, that Daniel’s promise had been wishful thinking, but Ford had held that string of hope close to his heart. Realizing their future was vanishing with every step he took had Ford ready to bolt. Their well-planned life had been transferred to Uncle Sam when Daniel signed on the dotted line.
Noticing Ford’s predicament, Daniel rushed him inside the next store. The unexpected blast of cold air shook Ford, but Daniel’s warm chest pressed against his back held him still. Daniel feathering kisses on the back of his neck made him sigh. He relaxed against him as Daniel cradled him tightly.
Without warning, Ford turned to face Daniel. His bottom lip trembled before he murmured, “Please, promise me you’re not going to abandon me. That you aren’t going to do something stupid, like getting killed on your first day.” Ford tried to hold the tears back, but they came anyway.
“Don’t worry, love. I promise not to get killed on my first day,” Daniel said, rubbing Ford’s jaw with his thumb.
“I’m sorry. I just can’t believe you signed our future away. We had so many plans—”
“We still have plans, I’m not leaving yet. We’ll finish school, have the summer to ourselves, and then, I’ll go to boot camp.”
“Yes, and shortly after you’ll forget all about me,” Ford added with a sob.
Embarrassed for being so weak, Ford pressed his face to Daniel’s chest, hiding from an older couple trying to walk down the aisle they were blocking. At least, the Christmas store in the heart of Hillcrest gave them a little freedom; no one will care about two guys hugging.
“Listen to me. We talked about this before. You know how important it is for me to serve just like granddaddy, dad, and Jamie.”
“I know. I just hoped… you’d change your mind and choose me instead. Oh my God. I’m so sorry, Danny!” Ford turned away, trying to leave the store, but Daniel grabbed his waist and pressed his chest against Ford’s back once again. Ford knew anyone looking at them would see the sorrow in his eyes and Daniel’s attempt to cheer him up.
“That was so insensitive, Danny. I’m really sorry,” Ford whispered.
“You have nothing to be sorry about. I love you, baby.”
With a small smile, Ford moved away from the embrace and roamed the aisles. At the back of the store, he stopped to look at a display of delicate glass ornaments. Daniel reached around him, grabbing one before holding Ford’s hand. Ford’s eyes widened when Daniel kneeled down.
“I had planned to do this on Christmas day, in front of our families, but I need you to know that I chose you.” Taking a deep breath Daniel continued, “Baby, I promise to do everything I can to come back to you, to not get killed during my time in the Navy, and to never abandon you. Please promise me you’ll follow me around the world, making my days brighter. Ford Cameron Jennings, would you make me the happiest man alive and become my husband?”
Ford grabbed the ornament from Daniel’s shaky hands and jumped to wrap his arms around his fiancé’s neck. His momentum pushed Daniel backward, making him lose his balance. Lying on the store floor, they kissed softly, as several customers clapped and catcalls cheered them up. Daniel broke the kiss and stood up, bringing a red-faced Ford up with him.
“Well, was that a yes?” Daniel asked.
“Yes! I promise to follow you around the world, making you happy for the rest of our lives. Daniel Tristan Matthews, I’d be honored to become your husband,” Ford answered, placing a chaste kiss on Daniel’s lips. “I just have one question: how am I supposed to wear a glass ornament on my ring finger?” Ford asked with a smirk.
Walking hand-in-hand with Daniel, Ford smiled until they arrived at the check-out counter; they were surprised when the clerk gave them the glass ornament free of charge—their first engagement present.
*** Revised 7/13/2016 *** Edited by Sara Winters. ***
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